Day 16: Keep silent, go forward

“The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.”

(Exodus 14:14-15, emphasis added, NASB)

If there were ever a morning that I felt more ill-suited to write a devotion it would be this one. Not only did my daily Bible study have me reading one of my favorite passages of Scripture, but as much as I wish this weren’t true, I have been acting the part of the Israelites these past couple of days.

Yes, even this morning.

There is so much I could share with you from this amazingly powerful piece of God’s Word, but today I feel drawn to share mine and the Israelites’ experience with this particular passage.

In Exodus 13:21-22, we see where the Lord was “going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.”

I’ve certainly never seen God manifest Himself through a pillar of cloud or of fire, and I can’t even begin to imagine what that must’ve been like to experience. The Israelites had just been liberated from the bondage of slavery.

I’m going to say that again.

The Israelites had just been liberated from the bondage of slavery. Now, they were following the mighty manifestation of God’s glory in the form of fire and cloud. God was actively guiding them.

He had led them out of slavery, and He was leading them to His plan.

Fast forward a bit to verse 7 of chapter 14 and we see that Pharaoh has undergone a change of heart. He no longer fancies the idea of his slaves wandering out of his dominion, and he decides to rally up his army to stop them.

Notice that he didn’t just send a few select troops to corral some hundreds of thousands of defenseless people. Instead, he knew the power of their God and as a result, he was prepared.

He had chariots sent out, and Pharaoh himself was taking no chances. He was going out alongside of his troops. In his mind, the Israelites would not be reaching their destination if he could help it.

Little did he know, the Israelites were doing his job for him. All it took was a flicker of fear to spark a full-fledged fearing frenzy to ensue amongst the people of God.

They saw Pharaoh on their flanks, and they saw his 600 chariots too. I can sympathize with these people. Seeing the dust stir up around the wheels of these fast-moving machines and to hear the heavy breathing of the horses as they chased towards these Israelites.

I would be a tad bit nervous as well.

But you see, that’s the thing. When they saw the chariots, they forgot the Creator.

Verse 11 reads “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in their way, bringing us out of Egypt?”

The people were verbally attacking Moses for helping to lead them out of slavery. You’d think they would’ve been grateful for what he had done.

You would think.

Gone now are the memories of the Passover and the plagues, long forgotten are the works of God’s strong right hand. Wasn’t it God who was leading them day and night?

He wasn’t just with them in the day when all was bright and cheery. No, God was also their tower of flame by night to lead and protect them.

God’s grace was poured out upon these people with a Hesed-like passion, but when life seemed complicated, they became moody and regretful.

Their mentality was that at least in Egypt they had somewhere to lay their head. At least in Egypt they weren’t being chased by an army (although they were very poorly treated.) In the minds of the Israelites, they preferred bondage over bravery, captivity over courage, and enslavement over emancipation.

Why? Because it required less faith of them. They were abused, mistreated, overworked in Egypt. Their slave masters despised them and thought of them as disposable, much like the enemy of our souls.

And when our enemy stands atop that hill whilst we are in the valley by the sea, we are intimidated by him. He is no fool. He has come to battle prepared. We aren’t leaving his grip without a fight.

My first instinct when I am hurt or fearful is to condemn myself. Of course I don’t think of it that way when I am in those moments, but that’s exactly what it is. I make myself an open target for the fiery arrows of the enemy because I don’t feel good enough.

I look down at my hands and feel useless. I look down at my feet and feel paralyzed. I look up towards my enemy and I feel discouraged. I look back at my past and feel fear.

Notice how very much like the Israelites, my immediate reaction isn’t always to look toward my Strong Tower or call out to my Shepherd.

I feel as though I must fight these battles on my own because why would He want to waste His time helping me in such a seemingly silly situation. But to God, our Father, He wants to help. He wants to guide us to progress by day and by night, but He won’t force Himself on us.

He wants us to choose Him.

The Israelites were speaking death into their situation from a heart of fear. And I understand that fear of rejection, or fear of disappointment is a very present thing in my life. A festering infection that has the potential to disable me if I allow it to.

When they spoke negative thoughts, they were speaking from their hearts. They weren’t trusting that the God who had brought them this far would never leave nor forsake them. They had turned their eyes from the King who loved them through and led them out of bondage.

In my favorite verses, Moses tells the people that the Lord would fight for them–FOR them–while (while, while, while, while) they kept silent.

Some versions say still, but I love the image of being silent in the presence of God. I’ve spoken before on how powerful the tongue is, and we can either choose to speak life or death into situations. The power is literally on the tip of our tongue.

Our attitude determines our altitude. (Thank you, Pastor Malcolm!)

The following verse, verse 15, the Lord speaks to His people and asks why they are crying out to Him.

God had already instructed His people on what steps to take (see verses 1-2), and yet they were standing still as if they had absolutely no direction.

The presence of the enemy in the situation hadn’t changed God’s plan for His people, but they had allowed it to paralyze their progress.

God hasn’t changed, and spoiler alert, He never will change (Hebrews 13:8). So, when the enemy comes on the scene, rebuke him then and there! He may not flee immediately, but in the name of Jesus Christ, he cannot stay indefinitely.

God has called us to GO FORWARD. Do you know what that means? That means “onward so as to make progress” (Thanks, Google.)

Believe it or not, we cannot make progress if a) we are constantly speaking death into what Jesus has called into life, and b) if we allow the pursuit of the enemy to put us in a place of panic.

I know this is a long devotional, but God knows I am passionate about this passage! We can choose how we speak, and we can choose where we move.

Nothing about God’s plan has changed! He wasn’t randomly caught off-guard by Pharaoh and his chariots. He knew long before the Israelites did (and He even warned them) that Pharaoh would pursue them.

But in verse 8 we see that Pharaoh “chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly.”

You’re no threat to the enemy if you aren’t progressing the will of God or bringing His kingdom to earth. He sees you as a threat, and his goal is to dishearten and discourage you.

But I prayerfully and confidently rebuke his schemes in the name of Jesus Christ. We are victorious through the Lion of Judah, and we can boldly go out into our day to day lives knowing that He loves us and has a mighty plan for us.

Stop speaking death and just bask in the perfect plan of God. Choose to sit in His presence in silence, trusting that He has your best interest at heart.

And start moving forward. Walk in faith and keep your eyes focused on the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

He is so good, and He has such amazing plans! Trust Him today, brothers and sisters. Allow Him to saturate every facet of your life in His beauty and holiness!

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